Voice of the Denon: The Story of The Exorcist’s Demon Pazuzi’s Voice

When William Friedkin was hired to direct The Exorcist after Stanley Kubrick turned it down, he said “they knew I knew how to make this film.” I recently watched “Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on the Exorcist”, a documentary/interview with Friedkin on the making of horror’s greatest film.

The documentary is filled with archives and extracts from the film and Friedman’s fascinating story of everything from how he got the director job, to make up, to casting changes he felt led to make and so much more. But the thing I found so interesting was the decision he made on the voice of the demon, Pazuzu.

Friedman first called on a friend, Ken Nordine, a prominent radio voice, to create the demon voice. He experimented for months but Friedman said it didn’t work because no matter how many times and ways Nordine did it, it was still the voice of a man. And he said well, it can’t be a woman’s voice either. So he wanted a voice that sounded like both a man and a woman. He called Mercedes’ McCanbridge, a famous radio, theater and film actress.

He played the film for McCambridge in rough cut with Linda Blair’s voice and she said in order for her to do what he needed her to do she would have to have alcohol and would have to swallow raw eggs and smoke to create the voice he needed. She required two priests to be in the room with her at all times and she had herself tied to a chair and squatted on it to create some self-pain while reading the lines. They went into the sound studio and she would do the scene and then walk to the priests at the back of the room and collapse in their arms in tears because of the things she had to say as the demon. She replaced every line Linda Blair had said as the demon. Mixed with some of the other sounds such as squeaking pigs, the voice of Pazuzu was created and it is still one of the scariest demonic voices and dialogue in all of horror.

I highly recommend watching this documentary as it is enlightening, and entertaining. And what a treat to hear the genius of a brilliant filmmaker.

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